Congress is gearing up to pass the first big farm bill since 2008. The logrolling between farm interests is nearing completion, the Republicans have given up on making substantial food stamp cuts, and the Treasury stands ready to borrow another $1 trillion. We are all set to go.
As food stamp utilization escalated over the last several years, the program’s advocates assured us that there was nothing to worry about. Yes, more people than ever before were on food stamps, but that was just because of the recession. Once the recovery began and the unemployment rate declined, fewer people would need food stamps.
The Department of Agriculture spends over $150 billion dollars per year on various programs related to agriculture and food. It spends tens of billions on farm subsidies that largely go to growers of just a few crops: wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton. Beyond this, it subsidizes food through the federal food stamp program, which is rife with waste and corruption.
The Washington Post has great reporters, but there may be room for improvement in sharing research and reviewing past stories by colleagues.An article on Sunday discussed how candy factories “had laid off thousands of workers” in a Chicago neighborhood where a new Wal-Mart has located:
House and Senate negotiators are working out details of a big farm bill that may pass this year. No industry in America is as coddled as farming, and no industry is as centrally planned from Washington. The federal sugar program is perhaps the most Soviet of all. Here’s a sketch of the sugar program, which the supposedly conservative, tea party-dominated lower chamber may soon ratify:
Farm bills traditionally contain both farm subsidies and food subsidies (e.g., food stamps). Unable to pass a traditional farm bill passed this year, the House Republican leadership separated the two components. The House passed a stand-alone farm subsidy bill in the summer and now it’s set to vote on a bill that would trim the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a., food stamps) by $39 billion over ten years.
Bloomberg has a series out on the federal government’s crop insurance program, which cost taxpayers $14 billion in 2012. The articles, which reveal a textbook example of politicians and special interests teaming up to pilfer taxpayers, should be read in their entirety.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that without a new farm bill to replace the 2008 farm bill, the USDA would not have the authority or the funds to continue paying the $147m per year bribe we had settled with Brazil in 2010 as part of a trade deal.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office says that although the USDA has gotten better at not paying out farm subsidies to dead farmers, it’s still forking out millions of dollars to the dearly taxpayer-dependent departed:
Whenever Republicans attempt to cut spending for some social welfare program or another, Democrats are quick to claim that it is not unaffordable spending that the Republicans dislike, but poor people. By passing the farm bill this week — after stripping out spending for the food stamp program — House Republicans showed that that stereotype is largely true.